5 Things to Know About Russell Terriers

This super smart, active dog breed needs a lot of exercise and loves children.

Russell Terriers
Russell Terriers are super smart and highly trainable. Photo: Petful

1. Key Characteristics of Russell Terriers

  • AKC Group: Terrier
  • Height: 10–12 inches
  • Weight: 9–15 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 12–14 years

The high-energy Russell Terrier, with its longer body and shorter legs, is not to be confused with the similar-looking Parson Russell Terrier or the JRTCA Jack Russell Terrier, which are separate breeds.

One big difference between the breeds is the dogs’ height. For example, the Russell Terrier is shorter, at 10–12 inches, while the Parson Russell Terrier stands 12–15 inches tall.

A working breed with a strong hunting instinct, the Russell Terrier has a weatherproof coat that is predominantly white with patches or spots of black or tan, or both colors.

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2. Where Russell Terriers Came From

This breed originated in England in the mid-1800s as fox and vermin hunters. The small size of the dogs allowed them to be carried in terrier bags on horseback.

The dogs were then developed in Australia and eventually found their way to fans of the breed in America. According to the American Russell Terrier Club (ARTC), a dog named Paint was the first-ever Russell Terrier registered in the United States, bred by Jerry and Elaine Rigden.

The ARTC notes that it was the first registry in the U.S. “to maintain the Russell Terrier as a separate breed from the Parson Russell Terrier” and that it did so in order “to preserve and promote this old traditional working terrier in its original form.”

The club adds that “breeding lines have been maintained with the specific intent to exclude infusions of Parson Russell Terrier blood lines as well as other ‘foreign’ terrier blood.”

The Russell Terrier, like the Parson Russell Terrier, is now recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC). Both breeds are classified in the AKC’s Terrier Group.

Russell Terriers
Russell Terriers are fearless and confident. Photo: GeorgeCinna

3. How Friendly Are Russell Terriers?

Russell Terriers are fearless and confident animals who are affectionate with their people.

Their high intelligence makes them extremely trainable, and they need socialization and reinforced training. As the ARTC notes, Russell Terriers “care not what is asked of them” when they are outside working in the field.

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These dogs are good with children, but you shouldn’t leave your Russell Terrier alone with small animals because of their strong hunting instincts.

These terrier breeds are extremely intelligent and so highly trainable that they often appear in movies and on television shows.

4. Is This the Right Dog for You?

Exercise Needs

HIGH: This very active breed needs regular activity, play and toys, and would be great for an active family who enjoys spending time outdoors. They will do well in apartments or city life with regular, daily exercise.

Grooming Needs

LOW: The weatherproof coat needs little grooming apart from weekly brushing, plus bathing as needed.

Be sure to brush your dog’s teeth and clip their nails regularly.

Health Problems

LOW: Russell Terriers are fairly healthy dogs with a small number of regular health problems:

Learn more about Russell Terriers in this video:

5. How to Adopt a Russell Terrier

If you are considering getting a Russell Terrier, please turn first to adoption resources. Even purebred animals sometimes land in shelters.

Try Petful’s free adoptable pets search. You can also check with rescue groups and breeders. Ensure the breeder is reputable.

Additional Resources

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